Pairing: Akanishi Jin/Kamenashi Kazuya
Word Count: ~10k
Disclaimer: All of this is fiction.
Note:You can also read this story at the Archive of Our Own.
Author's Notes: 金継ぎ (kintsugi) is the art/philosophy of mending broken objects with gold, highlighting that they are in fact broken but still beautiful.
Summary: In which Jin thinks he's going to die when an earthquake shakes him to life.
Jin is all the way across the Pacific ocean when his divorce is filed and finalized. It's okay, because he's used to it. He's hasn't been around for most of the big changes in his life anyway.
Sometimes, when he is reminiscing, he can recall (from the darkest and deepest corners of his memories) the smell of an after shave that's closer to a women's perfume really.
San Francisco lies bustling in the bay. The City, as the locals refer to it, is covered in a wet fog, keeping the morning chill alive even after noon. The traffic is making it's way through the streets, people are filling the sidewalks and the office buildings are bustling with commerce. You can follow the steep hills upwards into the hills or downwards to the water, maybe take a guided tour of the prison Alcatraz or join the crowd on the cable-pulled trams. It's October and it's been raining for two days before this.
On a busy street stands a hotel with an expensive entrance. In one of the single rooms we find a form lying in bed wrapped up in the stark white sheets. It's a man and he's pulled the blinds down on the large window with a view of the city below, wrapping the room in shadow. On the door outside hangs a “don't disturb”-sign warding any hotel maids off.
The sounds of the streets barely make their way inside, so there's nothing to disturb his sleep. His face is relaxed against the pillow. He's dreaming.
The man is Akanishi Jin. He is thirty-two years old and he arrived from Tokyo, Japan, his hometown, just a few hours earlier.
This man is not an ordinary tourist, and he's not an ordinary businessman either. It is also very odd that he's in a hotel in San Francisco and not Los Angeles. You see, Jin is an idol, an artist, and he has spent his whole career in the entertainment business with one particular agency in Japan. A couple of years back he left his old agency and ventured into the wild on an adventure of his own. This trip to San Francisco was supposed to help him gain back some traction on the over sea market. He wasn't all that confident that the meetings would lead anywhere, but he had taken the trip since he didn't have much else to do either way. So he had bought a plane ticket and booked a hotel and set off across the Pacific Ocean, cutting strings to his past as he went.
Jin is asleep on his side, legs drawn up towards his stomach. He dreams, but he won't remember the dreams later.
The earth is suddenly alive. Jin is shook to his core and shaken out of sleep. Tremor after tremor is pulsing its way through the city and the darkened hotel room where he was up until a moment ago sleeping the jet-lag away. He scrambles off the bed, crawls towards the bathroom and crashes into the side of the bathtub when another tremble makes the hotel sway like a building should never ever sway. It brings back memories of more quakes than he can count on his fingers. Then the ceiling comes crashing down.
Jin is halfway sprawling over and halfway clinging to the tub as the noise blots out all other sound. It's just plaster and something else light coming down, but there is dust and things hitting his back. He hears a scream from another room before the dust has even settled. Jin can only stare in horror as the wall in front of him starts to rip in half.
“The number you're trying to reach is out of service...”
Jin lowers the phone and looks at the screen in disbelief. It takes him a moment to realize that he's called the wrong number. He dials the right number instead, but after he's made his call he returns to look at the mistakenly dialed contact.
Everyone was fine, everything was fine, his wife, ex-wife, assured him through the phone. His marriage had been fine too. Well, everything was fine now either way, or so he had been told. The earthquake had not reached far and there lies many miles between Okinawa and San Francisco. He doesn't even know why he's returning home because he isn't needed there now. It's him who nearly died, at least he thought so. He's the only one that's shaken.
It's night outside the big airport windows and planes keep coming and going as if nothing big has happened at all. There were some delays, but nothing major. His hotel room had been split into half but for everyone else it was business as usual. Jin sinks deeper into the hard plastic chair he's occupied in the waiting area. He pulls a beanie down lower over his face and rubs at his cheek where whiskers have started growing since his last shave. His shadow is broken in the middle across the polished floor, stark fluorescent lights above giving him a sickly look. Shifting, he pulls his coat tighter around himself. Spending the night at the SFO is not how he had planned this trip at all.
Tomorrow he's supposed to be meeting producers and writers, but he's canceled all that. The thought of staying another day in town sits like a ball of nails in his stomach.
The contact he first dialed instead of Meisa is named “EMERGENCY” and he's had that contact saved, under different names, for longer than he can recall. Perhaps on all his cell phones. For as long as that number has been named “EMERGENCY” he's never used it for anything else than an emergency. Perhaps it was out of old habit that he called that number, or perhaps it was unwittingly done. Either way, he is reminded of its existence and toys with the thought of deleting it once and for all.
Instead, he falls into a haunted sleep and wakes up to the alarm he's set. The useless number is still on his phone when he boards the plane taking him back home.
Jin very rarely gets to attend his own press conferences. At first there's the fear of backlash, then there's another kind of fear, a fear of what his private life will cause. Jin never really understands their reasoning. He accepts their decisions from time to time, but that's more out of being comfortable than anything else. Most of the times he doesn't even try to understand, thinking about things too much is daunting. It puts him on the top of a cliff sharply jutting out and straight down in to a boiling ocean. Not knowing too much helps fend the guilt away. He's decided to never feel guilty.
It's easier to leave than he would have imagined. They act like it's all water under the bridge, and Jin feels that way too for a while. But the more he thinks about it he realizes that it's not. It's never been forgiven and forgotten because he's never really had any clue of what his agency has done (or why). He wonders what the others must have been through. Surely, it has been different.
One day, when he's sitting on a train, he picks up a forgotten magazine and randomly flips it open. Kamenashi's smiling face, complete with flawless makeup and fashion eye wear, looks back up at him. Attached to the photo shoot pictures, set against a sky blue backdrop, is a short interview. Most of the questions are the same as these magazines always ask, and the answers are equally bland and rehearsed. Towards the end there's a section about career, and Jin's interest is piqued. Kamenashi's tone has gone sour, the interviewer has attempted a joke which goes flat, and the very answer itself is completely different from the rest of the text.
There's bitterness there, in Kamenashi's words. A bitterness that he hasn't seen before and he feels queasy while reading.
Jin swallows and leans back in the train seat, closing the magazine before putting it aside. Maybe they've all been feeling the same thing. But Jin has promised himself not to feel guilt. He's worked hard for this. It's only an interview in a shitty magazine for brainless teens.
Jin doesn't feel guilty, but he feels lonely.
Lonely when he pulls his suitcase into his apartment, small and mostly empty, and dumps his jacket and shoes on the floor.
It's a part of town he's never lived in before and it's even less expensive than his first place of his own. That first apartment had not been temporary though, while this one is. He's moving into a slightly less cramped but much more expensive flat in December. So there's unpacked boxes stacked against the walls, and the furniture is even more temporary than that.
He takes one look at the mattress lying on the floor of what is supposed to be his bedroom, turns on the spot and wrestles inside his jacket and boots again. Time spent in apartment: less than a minute.
On a side-street, three stories up between a dry-cleaner and an optician, lies a bar called “Cuba”. There's not that many pedestrians below at this hour, and there's even fewer patrons entering the establishment. You enter it through an anonymous looking stairwell shared with other businesses in the building. The elevator is out of order and has been for at least ten years.
As you reach the third floor you're met by a heavy door made out of dark brown wood. It looks much older than the rest of the street. You pull the door towards you and you're immediately greeted by a smell of tobacco and spice. Inside it's patrons sits spread out between small tables and a long and polished bar counter with brass stools. The bartender is in his fifties and wears a black tie. A slightly younger woman works the tables wearing an equally formal kimono. It's a smoke bar and very few women ever find their way inside. There's never any fans of idol music either, so Jin and his friend Yamashita Tomohisa sit undisturbed at two such brass stools at the far end of the bar.
Their conversation has been going on for a while, so they've both emptied one drink each. The toils of the day is a burden they no longer remember in detail, even though Tomo, as his friend calls him, came straight to the bar from work. The mood is light and relaxed around them.
At first, you're struck by the thought of how similar they look. The lean against the counter in much the same way, their hair is styled the same, their expensively bleached jeans and their heavy wool coats are cut in the same fashion. Then you notice how Tomo's eyes are dulled with the years and how Jin's are sharpened by high strung nerves. They've grown up in the entertainment business together yet ended up being completely different people.
Their conversation is as eased as the air around them, there's nothing formal about them coming here.
“...and she's still in Okinawa and she'll probably stay there for a while.” Jin says and takes a deep swig out of his drink number two. A gin and tonic.
“It's good for Theia being with her grandparents like that. It's safe,” Tomo says with sympathy and pats Jin on the back. The conversations has been headed in this direction since he came from the taxi and sat beside his friend. Tomo is surprised that it has taken this long before they move away from the normal friendly bantering.
There hasn't been much time between them lately. They're always moving in opposite directions and schedules are mighty beasts to wrangle at any normal day, even more so when it comes to making them fit an equally busy one.
Jin sighs into his glass and nods.
“It's lucky I never believed in things like true love. If I did this would have wrecked me.”
“You mean like soul mates or star-struck lovers?” Tomo asks.
Jin nods and holds his glass on the edge of its base, lets it swivel back and forth to keep his hands busy and his eyes focused. “Do you believe in that sort of thing?”
They sing about it in their songs, they're so sure about love in their lyrics, but Jin has always written one thing and felt another.
“Well, yes, and no. Some people really do find that special one. The one that stays with them for the rest of their lives no matter what. Maybe they're that one big regret, or that one best thing that's ever happened to someone. I think all of us are looking for that,” Tomo says and downs the rest of his ember colored drink. Jin sits quiet and contemplates for a moment.
“Then I wasn't that person?”
“You might be, who knows, maybe she'll wake up in five years from now and suddenly realize. But I think there's a very small chance for that. You wanted to be her friend, remember?” Tomo reminds Jin with a smirk on his face, “either you're the perfect gentleman or there's just not enough fire for her taste. Maybe she wasn't that person for you .”
Jin think this over too. He loves her, but maybe he loves his daughter more. He's never been as happy as when he married Meisa, but maybe he's equally happy whenever he's on stage. It's confusing to think of this when there's whiskey in his blood and heavy cigar smoke in the air.
“I was satisfied with being a friend,” Jin repeats as if it's a revelation. Tomo laughs at him and flashes his perfect white teeth.
“Maybe that's it. Or maybe not. Who knows really? We're all different people, but then again we're all the same.”
“You're quite the philosopher when you're drunk,” Jin mutters and Tomo slaps him across his head.
They're quiet for a while, looking down at their glasses, then Tomo suddenly sits up straight with realization.“Weren't you supposed to be in San Francisco by now?”
“It got moved up ahead,” Jin lies and feels a cold-sweat breaking out on his forehead as he remembers. The strong burn of alcohol down his throat does nothing to dull the unease he feels as he remembers. His room had been split in half and he'd been forced felt mortal.
Tomo nods with understanding, he knows how it is when things get delayed and sometimes canceled altogether. He's too deep into his third tall drink to notice how Jin's eyes are sharpened under his unruly bangs. Maybe he's never really noticed that about his friend in the first place.
Someone once said that people are beautiful because they are like clouds. Secrets and mysteries add to the charm. What is hidden in a cloud is equally hidden in a human being. He read that in a magazine too.
When Jin wakes up with a start, body sticky with sweat and heart beating faster than his panicked breaths, it's with the memory of a smile with a gap between the front teeth. He barely has enough time to feel his world spin before he has to throw himself out of bed and to the bathroom, emptying his stomach into the white porcelain bowl of the toilet. When there's nothing to regurgitate he throws up memories instead.
The quake hadn't been very serious, but one tiny fault in the concrete base of the building had cracked and sent the ripples up through the floors. Jin had just happened to sleep in the wrong room. In fact, he and the older woman using the room next to his were the only ones directly affected.
When you feel the earth shake underneath you and see a wall crack in front of your eyes you never stop to consider that it might be just you that's experiencing those things. You scramble for safety, you think of the people you'll leave behind. There are so many people Jin has left behind, even without death, that he can't remember all of them. Some he remembers too well.
Jin finds himself browsing through the contacts on his phone while he walks from the convenience store closest to the studio he's rented. He's carrying a plastic bag filled with rice balls and canned tea in one hand.
His dad has had the same number for an eternity while his mother changes hers ever so often. His brother has changed it three times already this year. There's a few names he can't remember who they are amongst the contacts, and even more numbers with no names attached to them. It's a few year's worth of bad memory and spontaneous friendships that started over a drink and ended a week later when the “I'll call you” stopped seeming urgent. He wonders how many numbers he's lost or stopped using during the years. It must be hundreds upon hundreds of blurred faces and names he could never recall.
The number he's been trying to avoid, while still browsing towards it, is the one for emergencies. The one he can't use anymore, but found himself using by mistake.
It's a fossil. A remnant of another time entirely. As if it was a bug crawling while the dinosaurs walked the earth and now he's chipping away at the first stone tool, discovering the petrified remains after one misguided blow.
He'd honestly forgotten all about it. The last time he transferred his contacts it had been done automatically, so there had been no conscious choice on his side to keep it. But maybe he had somehow decided not to delete it. He must have seen it several times while looking for some other contact or while just searching for someone to call and chat with. Somehow, and Jin has no idea why, it has survived long after its expiration date. Maybe it's time to delete it.
A man walking down the sidewalk in the opposite direction of him bumps into the arm Jin is carrying the bag with, sending him off balance. He swears under his breath and glares over his shoulder at the inattentive pedestrian. Jin puts the phone back into his pocket and folds the collar of his coat up, shrugging to shake away the irritation from the collision. The sky is gray and it might rain today. The morning chill is staying longer in the air with each day of autumn.
Jin remembers when they were kids, when he could talk Kamenashi into doing anything, to follow along with all the pranks Jin had thought up. He got them both in trouble more times than he can count, and Kamenashi would always, well most of the time at least, get them out of that trouble. Kamenashi kept keeping him out of trouble for a long time. That's why Kamenashi's number is still on his phone amongst his contacts under “EMERGENCY”. That's the number Jin or one of his friends would call when something got out of hand.
The number hasn't been updated since sometime in 2010. Jin has, still, kept it on his phone, transferring it from phone to phone whenever he'd change.
When Jin dials what he thinks is Meisa's cell phone number, he accidentally dials this number instead.
One failed call makes Jin think.
He makes it through the day and most of the night before he finally caves.
There's a static ruffle in the background, Jin regrets making the call.
“Were you sleeping?”
“Yeah, Jin. As a matter of fact I was...” Tomo yawns and Jin shifts awkwardly on his couch. He hadn't meant to wake him up. He's been thinking the whole day, the whole time he was in the studio, on his lunch break, while he ate dinner in his cluttered living room, and he couldn't fall asleep because of it.
“I'm sorry. I just... I don't know why I'm even doing this, it's probably a really stupid idea.”
“Just spit it out so I can go back to dreaming about that blonde girl in the insurance commercial.”
Jin snorts. Tomo, as usual, is trying to coax his confession out of him with a laugh.
“I should've called Nakamaru, but he's probably in hibernation. It's two in the morning you know.”
“Yes, Jin. I'm. Aware.”
“It's just, I talked to this guy and he asked about Kamenashi and that got me thinking about... stuff?”
Great lie stupid, he thinks and suppresses the urge to hit himself.
“U-huh, and why the questioning tone?”
“I mean, I don't know anything about him. I haven't talked to him for more than a few words at a time since I don't know when. We run into each other a couple of times every year, but that's it. I sort of got irritated that I couldn't say anything about him, that I couldn't lie and say that I hadn't spoken to him in a while to keep our private lives private. There was nothing to keep private.”
“You knew it was going to be like this though, back then.”
“Well, I didn't realize how annoying it'd be. So I want you to give me his number so I can invite him out for dinner.”
There's a muted thud and then the phone makes a loud beeping sound right into Jin's ear, forcing him to hold the phone out at arms length to avoid the noise. He can hear some distant swearing and then, eventually, Tomo's voice comes back.
“Never. Ever. Wake me up like this again.”
And then the call is disconnected.
Jin stares at the phone in awe. Well, that was weird, he says to himself and is just about to put the phone down on the couch beside him when it beeps and buzzes with an email notification. The mail is from Tomo and it contains one turtle emoji and one cell phone number. Jin saves it as a new contact under the letter 'K'.
He's not alone in the studio the next day. A well-rested Jin, who surprisingly slept all through the night after he had acquired the new number, sits at a low table bent over a laptop while his assistant of sorts, Daisuke, is playing with a beat on a laptop of his own at the other side of the room. Jin hadn't called him and told him that he was back in town, Daisuke said he had heard it on the jungle drum, or something cheesy like that.
The work kept Jin occupied for a couple of hours, shifting words back and forth in some lyrics, fiddling with the chorus. Then he found himself staring at the birch tree panel that clad the walls and his thoughts were occupied by other things than rhymes.
He had Kamenashi's phone number, but what was he going to do with it?
He hadn't really thought about that part before. Sure, he had told Tomo that he was going to buy Kamenashi a dinner, but that has been part of his improvisation. Perhaps it wasn't such a bad idea though. Jin loves food. Kamenashi loves food, even though in a slightly more intellectual way. It could work. It could.
“I'm going to the store. Anything you want?”
Daisuke just waves at Jin without letting his eyes leave the screen and continues with his work. That's what he usually does.
Jin walks down the hall and takes the stairs up to the sixth floor where he climbs a metal ladder to the roof. This is where he does secret things, like smoke a cigarette when he's stuck or when he just feels like having a smoke without half of Tokyo breathing down his neck with judging eyes.
The sky is gray and the tar-painted roof looks like a black hole in the dim light. Jin leans against a railing and fishes his phone out of his pocket. He's looking as determined and grim as the weather.
There's a moment just after the call is connected when he panics and tries to cut the line, but then someone answers at the other end and Jin scrambles to reply.
“That's me,” the other answers and Jin recognizes the cause of the deep tone in the voice right away. Kamenashi was asleep when he called.
“It's Akanishi here, I'm sorry if I'm disturbing you but-”
“Akanishi as in the older brother or the younger brother?” Kamenashi asks and Jin swears he can hear him yawn. For the first time in his life he actually wishes that he was his brother.
“It's Jin, Akanishi Jin,” he explains and has to wince at how weird this conversation is. They grew up with each other yet Jin has to call him Kamenashi because both “Kazuya” and “Kame” are far too personal.
“Huh, I didn't expect hearing from you... is something wrong? Has something happened?”
“No, no there's nothing wrong. I'm sorry. I should call another time instead,” Jin mumbles and he can feel a very unwelcome blush color his cheeks. What is he even going to say?
Kamenashi clears his throat on the other end and stays quiet for a while, maybe he's looking at a watch. Then he's back at the phone and he sounds amused now that he's starting to shake the sleep off.
“Tell you what, if you come over here I'll buy you breakfast and you can tell me all about it. Or lunch, since it's noon.”
“Lunch?!” Jin says and starts pacing. How did this happen? He was supposed to buy Kamenashi dinner and now he's getting lunch paid for by Kamenashi instead. He had half expected that Kamenashi would be irritated or even hung up or tell him that he didn't have time to talk, or not even pick up the phone at all. Kamenashi it seems, is full of surprises.
“Mhm, I can tell there's something you want to ask, so I guess the lunch will be the ice-breaker. I'll text you the address, okay?”
“Sure, sure... I'll be there,” Jin replies and when they've ended the call and Jin's gotten the text message he feels a smile slowly pull at the corners his mouth.
That wasn't hard at all. Nothing to worry about. Easy-peasy-lemon-squezy.
Oh, who is he kidding?
There's some sort of mysterious force that binds Jin and Kamenashi together, as if they're magnets. Sometimes it's pulled them so close that Jin had to break free, so close that he's been afraid of what would happen if they were pulled even closer. Sometimes it's pushed them away from each other only to drag them back in place again. It's like a dance of sorts, a dance Jin has never managed to learn and he can't see the consequences of. So when the pull gets too strong he pushes away and when the push gets overwhelming he pulls Kamenashi closer again.
They're like magnets slowly loosing themselves to the forces of the universe, and he knows that it's going to be pointless to fight it in the end. This time, when the pull starts, he's willing to see what happens if he lets it.
Jin doesn't recognize him at first when Kamenashi stands up greet him across the small round table. He sticks his hand out and answers the handshake messily and stares from behind his sunglasses at a young man dressed in a loose T-shirt, a huge knitted cardigan and a pair of normal looking jeans. His hair is shorter than it has been in years, straight and black. Jin has imagined Kamenashi wearing a suit with a perfectly sculpted hairstyle and the man in front of him looks casual to the point of normality. He doesn't look forty and Jin can sort of imagine that they're still living back in 2006, now that the shock has passed.
“Have I got something on my face?” Kamenashi asks and breaks Jin's out of body experience, Jin shakes his head with little control and no flair.
“No, it's just... no it's nothing this is just slightly weird.”
“Slightly weird? I'd say it's completely weird, Akanishi,” Kamenashi laughs openly, sits down on his seat and waves for Jin to sit down on the opposite one.
Jin looks around the room, making sure that the windows are not anywhere near him, and takes his glasses off before complying to Kamenashi's request.
“It's sort of empty here, isn't it?”
“Yeah, they usually don't open until the afternoon, but they're prepping in the kitchen and I know the owner,” Kamenashi says and looks comfortable with the whole situation. “So, what was it that you wanted to talk about?”
The restaurant is quiet enough that Jin can hear his own heartbeat that hammering away relentlessly. Okay, so here it goes. He's going to say something smooth and awesome, something that will defuse this whole situation.
“I just realized that I miss being your friend,” Jin says, instantly regretting not coming up with a better reason.
It's somewhat worth it though when he gets to see Kamenashi break out into those genuine smiles that takes decades away and Jin can almost see a pair of bushy eyebrows and a space between Kamenashi's two front teeth. The man sitting across the table from him is fully polished, but he looks nothing like he does on TV. Jin forces himself to remember that that had always been the case with all of them, but after years of not seeing Kamenashi in private at all he's somehow confused the real person with the idol one. It's confusing on top of the weird.
The lunch is over before he knows it and Kamenashi is off to do some work, but Jin takes a long walk and doesn't even return to the studio at all that day.
“So, what do you do? Last time I asked someone they didn't know.
“You ask people about me?”
“Don't flatter yourself Akanishi, I'm curious by nature.”
“Hmm. I write songs for myself and for others. Then I record songs and I sell songs. It's like old times,” Jin says with a smile and shoves some more food into his mouth. It's two days later and Jin has finally managed to ask Kamenashi out for dinner, or ask him to accompany him for dinner, or offer to buy him dinner. Jin gave up on trying to keep it from sounding like a date about halfway into their telephone conversation earlier that day. Kamenashi was too well behaved to point his failed attempts out.
“Yes, but were they ever good?” Kamenashi adds with that smile of his.
Jin knows better than to fall for that trap and just keeps eating.
“You know, I always figured that you'd do well when it comes to production. The studio people never managed to kick you out whenever we were recording something. The rest of us scrammed as soon as we weren't needed anymore, but you always stayed behind and learned things. I guess it was an omen,” Kamenashi says. He's not eating much, Jin notes, he seems too occupied with the conversation. As if it was completely riveting to talk with Jin. An odd feeling crawls into Jin's stomach and he feels a bit proud of the fact that he's considered good company.
“I always figured you'd charm the pants of all the people in the entertainment business, so I guess we were both right,” Jin answers with a grin and the serious air around deflates. The rest of the evening is spent moving from one laugh to the other.
Kamenashi takes Jin to see his dogs that his sister in law has been taking care of while his mother is on vacation. Jin remembers that time when they sort of, but not really, bought a pair of puppies together.
Jin takes Kamenashi to a club and they spend one and a half hour in a hallway as they avoid the paparazzi on their way out.
Jin invites Kamenashi over to his apartment to watch a game of baseball and drink some beer. Kamenashi makes fun of the piles of boxes along the walls, but approves of the expensive television set.
Kamenashi has started to text him and Jin makes it into a challenge to send double the amounts of texts back.
It's a relief. Jin would never have imagined spending time with Kamenashi would put him to ease like this, never in a million years. Spending time with Kamenashi is like a dance, and yet they're sitting in a couch doing nothing much at all.
Kamenashi has a glass of sparkling water in one hand and his otherworldly-looking TV-control in the other. They've been browsing through the never ending amount of channels Kamenashi seems to be paying for. “I have no idea what even half of them show” he had said and smiled conspiratorially as if this was some sort of rebellion.
Jin hums in approval as they end up on a channel showing music videos, Kamenashi tsks but doesn't change the channel again. They sit quietly for a while as they watch the end of an American music video. Jin is impressed by the shear amount of people they've rallied for it, not so much by the song itself.
He's thinking about financing and organization when Kamenashi shifts and their shoulders touch. The pull is back and Jin thinks that it feels like his side is set on fire by it.
The music videos keep playing and Kamenashi empties his glass of water, gets to his feet and asks Jin something that Jin doesn't hear.
“I asked if you want something from the kitchen.”
“Water,” Jin croaks and swallows dry air. Perhaps he knows what the pull is, now that he's older. But it can't be that, it's impossible Jin tells himself. Yet, there's something there. In the way Kamenashi smiles and the way he moves close without seeming to be aware of it.
Jin has it all figured out by the time Kamenashi returns from the kitchen with two glasses of water and a bag of peanuts.
He's sort of, maybe, perhaps, most definitely, falling in love with him.
“Now, why are you here?” Tomo asks and hands Jin a beer from the fridge. Jin is leaning against the kitchen counter. There's stuff all over the kitchen counters. Tomo has never been good at cleaning his apartment, much like Jin.
“Kamenashi is going to Osaka for work tomorrow and I feel sort of... lonely,” Jin confesses. They've only been hanging out for a week or so, but it feels wrong that Kamenashi is going away for five days now that they've just started talking again after all these years. Tomo seems to be able to read his thoughts, because he pats Jin's shoulder and sits on the kitchen table in front of him.
“So go there, annoy the hell out of him like you used to do. I don't know why Jin, but it's just as weird seeing you guys together as it is seeing you apart,” he stops and thinks about something while staring at his beer bottle as if it wasn't there, then he seems to realize something and looks up.
“Have you ever considered just telling him how you feel?”
“How I feel?” Jin asks back.
“Yeah, well, you don't have to be a brain surgeon or a rocket scientist to know that you've been mooning over him since you first met the guy,” Tomo says as if he was discussing the weather, something mundane and boring. As if it was obvious.
“I have not been mooning over Kamenashi, you're imagining things!” Jin says and bites off the words in anger.
“Sure, you haven't been mooning over him and he hasn't been mooning over you. Glad we talked that one out,” Tomo says with a laugh, that throaty one he reserves for things that's silly and all things Jin.
There's not enough beer in the entire world to save Jin from the violent blush on his face. He chugs the rest of the bottle anyway.
“So you might want to go there and woo him,” Tomo continues, “to Osaka I mean.”
Osaka is not like Tokyo, yet it is exactly like any other Japanese city he has visited. Kamenashi doesn't feel out of sorts when he exits the bullet train that took him and his baggage here, he feels at ease. After over a decade of long travels he's used to it, used to waking up in a new city every other day and used to living out of a suitcase.
Osaka is nothing like Tokyo, yet it is still the same. When he walks to the main station building from the train platform he hears a group of young women squeal with joy. His manager is walking ahead of him, leading them both on a quick route towards taxis and transportation away from crowds.
Kamenashi Kazuya is an actor and an idol. He's a member of a boy band quintet and has spent his entire career in the very agency Jin left a few years ago. He's a spokesperson and a commercial model, he's a son and a lover of the One Piece manga series, but he's very rarely just plain old Kazuya. Today he's in Osaka for a guest appearance on a popular drama series, it's aired on golden time, which means that he's very excited. It feels odd though, he realizes after they've made their way through the building and stopped a taxi, to now be on speaking terms with Jin. Maybe it's the break, maybe it's the fact that Jin doesn't have any responsibilities to the agency anymore that can tie him down, but it definitely feels... easier.
It's autumn and the sky is pale and crystal clear. Kamenashi pulls the forest green wool duffel closer around him and picks some lint from his washed out jeans. He's pulled a black beanie down over his eyebrows and wear big sunglasses that makes him stand out more than he would have without them. The sunglasses are an old habit, the beanie is a necessity. He's got short and dark brown hair for this drama part, went to the hairdresser especially for this part, so he's hiding from the chill in the air. It's soon toasty warm in the taxi, but he keeps his clothes as his manager wrangles out of his jacket.
Yuta is in his forties by now and he volunteered to accompany Kamenashi on the work trip because he needed a vacation from the office. If he knows the old man right then he's going to sit on a chair wherever the catered food is and let Kamenashi manage his own work. Kamenashi likes it that way.
There's a muted bleeping sound from his phone. Kamenashi checks and sees that he's got four new messages. They're all from Jin. He smiles and starts to read and answer them all. Yes, he's made it safely, he's in a taxi on the way to the hotel. There'll be a rehearsal reading in the afternoon and then he'll have the evening off. He can call Jin later.
Jin's answer arrives just minutes later. As if he's been staring at his phone this whole time waiting for a reply.
Miss me yet?
He's added a smug emoji wearing sunglasses. Kamenashi snorts and types a “how can I miss you when you've bombarded me with messages this whole train ride?” and sends it with a grin on his face. It sort of feels like being a teenager again. They used to text each other when they were away on a tour somewhere even if they were just a room apart. Jin had trouble sleeping away from home and Kamenashi always humored him, replying to every message until they stopped coming (and then Kamenashi knew that Jin had fallen asleep).
I've got a lot of lost time to make up for.
Kamenashi snorts and puts his phone back into his pocket. Yuta, the manager, gives him a look that means something in the line of “kids these days, can't live a second without posting something online somewhere”.
Then they're at the hotel and Kamenashi doesn't check his phone until later that day.
Kamenashi and Akanishi used to be in the same boy band together. Back then they were six members. Over the years they lost some foothold to younger groups or from talents from abroad, but they treasured their fans. Then Jin left for LA and then he came back. A few years followed and then Jin left the group altogether, he went solo and the agency got him a contract with an international record label. Then Jin left the agency as well. Kamenashi often tells his best friends that he doesn't miss Jin in the group as much as he misses Jin as a friend. But few people remember the time when they were friends, because it was such a long time ago now, back when Jin went to LA the first time. Kamenashi can hardly remember it himself anymore.
Sometimes, when Kamenashi is just Kazuya he watches old TV shows they were guests on, or one of their concert DVDs. Sometimes he feels like they robbed him of his best friend. At those times he wishes that he could just call Jin like old times, but even if he's got Meisa's number he never tries. Then he hears of the divorce, reads the big tabloid headlines about the so called scandal, and it feels odd how much he's missed out of his friend's life.
When Jin calls and wakes him up, after years and years without a single call, Kamenashi feels more like Kazuya than Kamenashi and he grabs a hold of the chance that is presented to him as if it was a matter of life and death. He feels hope.
“U-huh, that's me,” Jin replies happily and pushes his way inside Kazuya's hotel room. He's got a shoulder bag with him and he's wearing a big black coat and a scarf. He's probably alerted every tabloid photographer alive about his whereabouts walking around wearing clothes like that. Kazuya stares and let's him walk right in.
“But what are you doing here?!” he hears himself ask, but he's completely occupied with staring.
Jin just shrugs and dumps his bag and the coat on the floor, bending down to untie his shoes. “Thought you'd be a little bit happier and a little bit less shocked. But it's alright, I can work with this.”
Kazuya feels himself tighten up and stiffen his back, the way he always did when Jin was being troublesome, but takes a few calming breaths and forces himself to relax. He had sort of wanted Jin to come, had sort of imagined Jin showing up at the rehearsal and what sort of fun madness that would create. He thought it and now he had it, so he couldn't really complain. Either way, Jin looks oddly determined, as if he's dead set on doing whatever he's planning to do.
He actually manages to find the fun in the whole situation while he pushes Jin over to the small couch and hands him the white hotel phone.
“Then make yourself useful and order us room service. I'm taking a shower.”
“Rehearsal went well?” Jin asks when Kazuya is halfway across the room. He's smiling when Kazuya looks, his head tilted slightly with real interest in his looks.
“Yes, it was perfect,” Kazuya replies when he really just wants to ask Jin how on earth he remembered his schedule. It's warming to know that he did.
When he steps out of the bedroom twenty minutes later he's greeted by muted droning from the TV and Jin stretching out on the couch, hands drawn in behind the sleeves of his sweatshirt.
“Cold?” Kazuya asks.
“No, it's alright, I'm starting to warm up.”
They fall silent again and Kazuya decides that he can't just stand there watching Jin, he has to do something normal, and sits down in an armchair. He props one sweatpants-clad leg up on the armrest and sinks back. They spend another ten minutes like that and then the room service arrives with the food. He's eaten with Jin a lot of times this past week, so he can remind himself of that and their conversation during the meal flows much more freely. Jin seems to be just happy enough spending time with him.
It's when the night is at it's deepest, when the last train has left the station and when people are either asleep, drunk or living out their secrets, that they finally, really talk.
It starts when Jin says, sounding quite amazed, that he had imagined Kazuya to get mad when Jin had called him. He means it as something positive, but it hurts nonetheless.
“Jin, I was very rarely angry and I only lectured you a few times. I tried to stay back and give you space, I really tried to understand how it was for you, what you were going through.”
“But you always had that look on your face, like you were disappointed. It feels like you were always mad at me for this or that,” Jin continues, gesturing wildly with his hands as he speaks. It's like someone has opened the gates and now Jin can't keep years worth of thinking back. Kazuya sort of gets that and he stays calm once again, trying to understand.
“Maybe you saw what you felt yourself,” he reasons, but Jin looks even more upset at this.
“I don't feel guilt,” he says, “I've decided.”
“Jin. You can't decide to not feel guilt. We all feel guilt at some point. It can be about bullying some kid in school or taking the last melonpan at a lunch break... guilt is normal. Most of us just ignore it so we can go on living the next day.”
“Do you feel guilty about all this... about KAT-TUN?” Jin then asks.
Kazuya tries to catch Jin's eyes with his, but Jin is looking away, as usual. He remembers that Jin has always been like this. That sometimes it felt like it could go days without him looking at you and that he hid his face with hats and glasses most of the time. He must've stolen glances at their faces while they thought he wasn't looking, seen unguarded faces and tired frowns.
“No and yes. I feel guilty because I can't do more for the group. I feel guilty because I'm always put in the spotlight and that is unfair to the others because they're equally if not even more talented than I am. But I don't feel guilty about what I've done for the group, about the talks we've had or about the fact that we've failed the fans while we lost member after member. Jin, I'm proud.”
There's a moment of silence while Jin avoids looking at him even more intently.
“I had no choice,” Jin says and straightens in his seat, for once looking straight at Kazuya. Maybe he's pleading for him to understand and forgive. Maybe this past week has been all about guilt and about nothing else. The thought makes Kazuya cringe, there's a bad taste in his mouth.
“There's always a choice, only we've usually already made up our minds.”
“Perhaps... but it was unfair of them. Doing it like that, and at that moment. It's unfair that I never got to live through the consequences, that they shipped me off and away not just once but twice!
Kazuya isn't aware of when Jin started to get angry, he just suddenly is. It is odd. Jin usually just uttered curses under his breath and banged doors. The older they got the more rarely he let them see him fume. Sometimes they'd hear from the staff how he'd gotten angry at something, their mumbled irritation about his lack of professionalism. Kazuya would always ignore or laugh at those remarks because the Jin he knew lived for his work, always the last to leave the studio, always the first to worry about concerts.
“I usually only feel guilty about one thing,” Jin says and keeps his eyes fixed on Kazuya.
Kazuya is afraid to ask 'what?'. He wants to, he is aching all over to just ask it. 'What do you feel guilty for Jin? For leaving and not telling, twice, or for leaving us behind? For leaving me behind? For that time when you suddenly weren't my friend anymore? For the times I've helped you but never received anything in return?'
That is a conversation that he doesn't really want to start.
“Don't tell me what,” Kazuya says instead. His head lowered in defeat.
Jin hums, agreeing. Relieved that he was stopped? Kazuya can't tell when neither of them are looking at each other.
If he's to be honest with himself he remembers that to have been a pretty common thing back then, no one looking and everyone avoiding. He supposed that that's what they've done to deal with the guilt.
“We were friends once. We're sort of friends now. That's enough, right?” Kazuya asks and shifts in his seat. The city is dark and bright, all at once, outside the square windows facing south.
“Of course, yeah. Not best friends or anything, just friends,” Jin says. He's agreeing again. Happy to be let off the hook even though it was his own mouth that brought him there in the first place.
It's late and Jin has nowhere to go, Kazuya offers him to just stay the night. But it's awkward sleeping in the same bed. Kazuya regrets offering his room to Jin when he sits propped up by pillows and hears Jin brush his teeth in the bathroom. It's too domestic, it's weird and jarring in more ways than one. If Kazuya knows Jin right then he'll follow him to work tomorrow and sit and watch Kazuya with those sharp eyes he's got. The one's that Kazuya, long ago, has quit trying to understand.
The sound of running water quiets in the bathroom and Jin appears in the doorway in a gray T-shirt with washed out text across the chest. He's still wearing his jeans. Kazuya shifts closer to the edge of the bed to make room, and gives Jin a smile that feels more like a grimace.
“Are you ready? I mean finished with stuff in the bathroom?” Jin asks and points back inside the lit room.
“I brushed my teeth,” Kazuya replies, and gestures with his hands, “earlier.”
Now, this is awkward.
Jin seems to feel the same way because he reaches inside the bathroom and turns the light off and moves away from the door, but ends up hovering beside the bed instead. He looks undecided about something, Kazuya doesn't ask Jin, he knows to wait until Jin gives the answers willingly.
“Are you sure? I mean I could probably find somewhere else to stay-”
“It's alright, you came here because of me so I'm responsible. Or something,” Kazuya says and pats at the bed cover beside him. “I'm brushing up on the lines for tomorrow but I'll turn the light off in a couple of minutes.”
Jin seems to finally accept the notion of Kazuya wanting to be anywhere near him, and takes his jeans off before crawling in under the sheets. He only had a small bag with him when he came. Kazuya figures that there's only a pair of jeans and a phone charger in there, not a pair of pajama bottoms.
Kazuya returns his attention to the script and manages to get through most of them a couple of times before he realizes that he's read the same sentence four times in a row. He stretches his arms out over his head and yawns. Jin is on his side, watching Kazuya from underneath his bangs. The need to reach out and to brush the hair away from Jin's face is stronger than ever now, that want that he has been ignoring for a decade now. Every time he gets too familiar with Jin he manages to push him away, or Jin pushes away. He's not sure about the specifics. What he knows is that if he wants to see more of Jin in the next couple of years then he should be friendly but not too friendly, intimate but never intimate at all. He should leave enough hints that Jin thinks that they're great friends, even brotherly, but he should never interfere, never demand.
He's spent most of his career dealing with people that don't know what they're demanding of others, Jin is no exception. Jin was his first in a way. The first person that broke Kazuya's heart, the first person that taught Kazuya that if you let someone too close then you give them the power to hurt you where it hurts the most. The first person to befriend him was Jin. The first person to leave him was Jin, even if Jin left the group not just Kazuya. Jin is also the first new friend he's made since a couple of years back and he's the first person to share his bed in double that amount.
Jin yawns as well and Kazuya dares to take another look, carefully making sure to look controlled and bored as he does. A hand sneaks out from underneath the covers and covers Kazuya's. It's Jin's hand. He stares in disbelief at their joined palms and looks up again to meet Jin's eyes.
“It looked cold,” Jin offers and looks bashful. Jin doesn't ever look bashful. He's not a maiden in a fairytale. Kazuya has to shake his head and try to get a grasp at the situation. You think you know a man and then he goes and surprises you completely.
Before he knows it he's giving Jin's hand a squeeze, feeling all the tension from before, all the awkwardness since Jin walked in to the room, melt away. It's like his mind has just sighed and found itself comfortably settled.
Jin still looks a bit shy, but he's returning Kazuya's grasp with an odd determination. Has this been Jin's plan all along? Kazuya asks himself in awe. Has Jin, ten years later, decided to do what Kazuya only ever dreamed about?
“You don't mind?” Jin asks and strokes the side of Kazuya's hand with his thumb, making the skin burn wherever he does.
“No, no I don't” Kazuya says and the forgotten script slides down the side of the bed, breaking the spell. He's on his way to reach for it when Jin lifts himself off the bed and pulls Kazuya closer. Kazuya doesn't know who moves first but just seconds later they're kissing. It's sweet and warm, just lips on lips and Jin's hand holding him in an iron grip. When they move apart they're both smiling and Jin looks like he's fifteen again, all of the small creases around his eyes magically removed.
“I only feel guilty about this,” Jin says and leans in to give Kazuya another kiss.
“Yes, about not getting here faster, about not giving you your first kiss back then, about not taking you out on dates, about running away when I realized that we couldn't be just friends instead of being your boyfriend. About a lot of things.”
“How long have you been thinking about these things?” Kazuya says and Jin shrugs his shoulders.
“Forever I think.”
Kazuya knows what that means, he knows the business and he knows how they grew up. He's been plenty of scared himself.
Then Jin is kissing him again and he can't think of anything else.
It's almost dawn when Kazuya feels close to falling asleep. He's wrapped up tight in Jin's arms, held close to Jin's T-shirt clad chest. It's a new beginning, this thing, whatever it is. Kazuya knows that for sure. He also knows that he's going to make a leap of faith.
Kazuya joins Jin in sleep for the hours he's got left of the night as the city starts to wake up and the sky starts turning pale.
On a backstreet of Yokohama, looking out at the narrow space between concrete buildings and a net of electrical wires crisscrossing from building to building, you can find a small tea room on the fourth floor. It's been there since the 80's when the original owner thought that his street was going to get more young customers. In the end it became a place where the local men and women congregated and sat for hours over a cup of sludge coffee or weak tea to exchange old and new gossip. The owner, Mr. Honda, takes pride in his coffee shop nonetheless and always keeps the dark wooden counter polished and there's always fresh sandwiches and red bean buns behind the glass display.
It's noon on a summer day and only one out of the seven small tables are occupied, the one at the far corner by potted the fig tree. The two old ladies occupying the table have their handbags and a net bags with bright yellow melons at their feet. They're discussing something with their heads close and their bodies leaned against the table. The subject of their conversation is extra scandalous based on their postures.
Mr. Honda pays them no attention, he's half asleep on a stool behind the counter, when he's jolted awake by the sound of a gasp from the lady on the white metal chair. The other lady, sitting on a dark wooden chair with a creaking backrest, tuts and makes a face that seems to say “now you're being silly again”. Mr. Honda goes back to his own business.
The lady on the white chair leans closer again after the initial burst of surprise. Their conversation drifts our over the tea room again.
“Doesn't your granddaughter always go to their concerts? You should tell her not to. That sort of a thing is not proper,” she says and stirs her lukewarm tea before she takes a sip. The woman on the wooden chair but puts her cup down with a clash.
“It's not the fifties anymore Yuko, these things are common now. It's probably just the tabloid making things up, but I thought it was a fun rumor,” she says to the lady in the white chair.
“It's still not okay, look at the Takahashi's son, he's been having trouble keeping a job since the news spread. We live in a small city you know.”
“Yokohama has millions of inhabitants, it's by no means small,” the woman in the wooden chair lectures, “and it's good that some of these idols are a little less perfect.”
“Either way,” says Yuko,”it's a scandal and you should tell your granddaughter to not buy anything more from them.”
Mr. Honda clears his throat and wakes up as the small bell on the tea room door tells him that there's another customer entering the shop. It's three men in the sixties, part of the usual crowd, and the two women in the corner fall silent. They stay silent as they finish their tea and take their leave ten minutes later. When they return the next day they talk about other things and have quite forgotten all about the Takahashi's gay son and the Tokyo Sports tabloid with their “Kamenashi and Akanishi dating for real?” headline. One scandal follows the other and in cities as big as Yokohama or Tokyo, no one has the time to remember who did what and who did who for a very long time.